by Amy McNulty,
So far in Gugure! Kokkuri-san, we've met a fussbudget fox and a lecherous dog. What other adorable four legged creature can move in with Kohina to add to the commotion? Episode 4 has the answer: a tanuki. However, anyone familiar with the traditional tanuki statues all over Japan might be able to guess that he's not so adorable. (Promotional images for how his animal form will appear in future episodes notwithstanding.) Shigaraki was shown briefly at the end of episode 3, but now he gets a full-fledged introduction.
The first half of episode 4 is one of the weaker segments of the show so far, although it has its moments. The problem lies primarily with Shigaraki's characterization. He makes a good addition to this ragtag team of animal spirits because he's not a young bishōnen. However, the "drunk and/or gambling ojisan" trope has been done to death in everything from shōnen shows (like Naruto) to other comedies (even going back to the fantasy/comedy El Hazard). A trope doesn't have to be immediately dismissed just because it's been done before, but Shigaraki needs to step up his game a little if he's going to bring something new and interesting to the table. His humanoid/animal "hybrid form" is a start, and the last joke in his introduction segment is spit-take-inducing. It completely turns the predictable heartwarming ending into something unexpected. Both of these give me hope that Shigaraki might be a more riveting force in the future, so long as the show doesn't become overcrowded, which the opening theme hints could become a problem.
Conversely, this episode's second segment is one of the best so far. Kokkuri, worried that Kohina is bullied and friendless at school, follows her and the ever-stalking Inugami to school. Kohina introduces him to Yamamoto-kun, someone who just might be her first crush, although Kohina insists she's merely fascinated by him. Boy, is her fascination justified. Kokkuri's tsukkomi-style persona is put to effective use throughout the bit.
Fans of the show who've been bothered by Inugami's loli-loving shtick can breathe a sigh of relief—he's barely in the episode, and only appears in adorable dog form. However, this is also evidence that the most interesting thing about the character—that he switches between male and female forms—is just a throwaway gag. She-Inugami appeared only briefly in episode 3, and not at all this time. While I appreciate that his gender fluidity is not constantly made the butt of a joke, I'd also like to see Inugami change between the two more often without anyone needing to comment on the transformation. She-Inugami helps balance the male-to-female ratio of characters better, although the end of this episode does hint that another girl is on the way.
Episode 4 is not to be missed if you've been enjoying Gugure! Kokkuri-san so far. Even when at its weakest, it provides plenty of laughs, and it particularly shines in the second segment. If the boke and tsukkomi routine is your bag, this series is unlikely to disappoint.
Gugure! Kokkuri-san is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Amy is a YA fantasy author who has loved anime for nearly two decades.
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